Government Information Online: Ask a Librarian

Book being pulled from shelf.

We don’t have to tell you that U.S. Government agencies provide information on a wide variety of subjects ranging from aardvarks to zygomycosis with such topics as communications, defense, health, international affairs, labor, regulatory affairs, and weather in between. With information being widely available to the American public it’s inevitable for questions to arise during a basic search or even while browsing new Government publications for fun. This month we are spotlighting our partnership that answers these questions.

The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) has joined the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and Federal depository libraries around the country to provide a free online reference service that focuses on Government information products as the source of answers to patron questions. Government Information Online (GIO): Ask a Librarian is supported and maintained by almost thirty public, state, law, and academic libraries throughout the United States. All of the libraries participating in GIO are members of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). The partnership began in February 2008 and was renewed this past fall.

In September some GIO participants mentored and sponsored internships for Information Science students from the University of Maryland who were enrolled in the two-year Masters Program in Government Information Librarianship. From their association with depository libraries and their GIO experiences, the graduate students learned what it means to work as a Government information librarian in a distributed digital environment.

Public users of GIO are exposed to and benefit from the librarian’s knowledge of agency information dissemination practices and usage of Government information products, publications, and data sets. 

How does GIO work?

Users contact GIO through the GIO Web site. They have the option of submitting questions through e-mail, where they may select a specific participating library, or they can interact with GIO librarians through live chat sessions. Recent data show that between September 2010 and September 2011, GIO librarians had 4,606 e-mail and chat interactions with seekers of Government information. Of those, just over 2,000 were chat sessions.

In addition to the questions received through the GIO Web site, GIO librarians receive questions forwarded from GPO. As you know, GPO answers questions through askGPO that pertain to its products, services, and the work of the agency. Many questions are received that are outside the purview of the GPO, and we do not have a library to consult to answer them. These questions are forwarded to GIO. Since the partnership began, GIO librarians have answered 3,924 questions for GPO, roughly 1,000 questions a year. Thank you GIO librarians!

GPO very much appreciates this virtual collaborative effort to answer questions about the Government and its works; you are there to serve the public at their point of need.

It’s not too late for your library to participate in the Government Information Online: Ask a Librarian. If you are interested, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Partnership Showcase

Read about previously highlighted partners in our Partnership Showcase Archive.

Preservation Steward Map

preserv steward map

Locate Preservation Stewards across the country

FDLP Connection Archive

We have sunsetted the FDLP Connection with the July / August 2018 issue and will not be publishing the Connection anymore. We’ve enjoyed bringing the FDLP Connection to the community over the years! You can still view past issues. View full archive (2011-2018).